Home Office rejects sexual persecution asylum claim on basis a woman with children cannot be gay

The Home Office has been accused of holding “highly offensive” and “outdated” views of sexuality after it rejected the asylum claim of a Nigerian lesbian, who claims to be avoiding sexual persecution, on the basis she cannot be gay as she has children and was previously in heterosexual relationships.

Aderonke Apata (pictured), 47, applied for asylum as she fears imprisonment and death as a result of her sexuality if she returns to Nigeria.

Ms Apata appeared in London’s High Court in order to challenge the Home Office’s refusal to grant her asylum in the UK.

She came to Britain in 2004 and has been an active gay-rights campaigner – receiving awards for her work.

However, she is so desperate to convince the UK government of her sexuality that she has submitted a DVD as well as photographs of her sex life as proof she is a lesbian.

But because she has children and was previously in heterosexual relationships, the Home Office has argued she cannot be a lesbian.

Her barrister, Abid Mahmood said these were “highly offensive… stereotypical views of the past”.

He told the hearing: “Some members of the public may have those views but it doesn’t mean a government department should be putting these views forward in evidence.”

Andrew Bird, barrister for the home secretary, said Ms Apata was “not part of the social group known as lesbians” but had “indulged in same-sex activity”.

He added: “You can’t be a heterosexual one day and a lesbian the next day. Just as you can’t change your race.”

Ms Apata was surrounded by gay-rights activists yesterday when she appeared in court  with her wife-to-be Happiness Agboro.

In Nigeria, sexual activity between homosexuals is a criminal offence, punishable by up to 14 years in prison under laws passed last January.

Since then there has been a spike in violence against homosexuals.

Mr Mahmood said the home secretary previously referred to Ms Apata’s case in court papers as a “publicity stunt”.

He said: “There is evidence of the genuineness of her case, that she will be picked out as a lesbian if she is returned.”

Ms Apata previously attempted suicide in 2005 while in prison facing deportation. Her fragile mental state forms part of her case that she would suffer upon return to Nigeria.

Following the hearing, Ms Apata said: “The Home Office has treated me badly from day one. Staying in Britain means staying safe, staying with my partner and continuing my campaigning.”

John Bowers QC, deputy High Court judge, is to hand down a ruling before the end of this month.